As one of my professorial duties, I arranged an on-site visit to a student doing an internship as his May term in Carroll. That the town happens to be on the UP mainline was merely a fortuitous coincidence, of course!
Jan and I left Indianola around 7:30 and headed up I-35 and then west on U.S. 30. We left 30 to pass through Boone, and encountered our first train at 8:45 (the new Hwy. 65 bypass of Des Moines makes this a fairly quick trip) just east of the yard at the Shamrock crossing. This was a westbound coal empty, of CWEX gons, with UP 6601 and 6577 on the point. The inbound crew was waiting for the van to come out and pick them up.
We also spotted some switching, by the CBPR, going on at the east end of the yard. They were working with CNW 6866 and SP 8272 today. We cut through the yard to check out the power, finding UP 2020, 5555, 1676, 1716 and 1735, SSW 9668, CNW 4706, 4710, and 4703.
We drove on west to Grand Junction, stopping there for two intermodal trains. At 9:35 we saw an eastbound trailer train with UP 6309 and 3590, and just a couple of minutes later, a westbound with UP 7539 and 9491, followed by a short consist of container cars.
After my appointment in Carroll, we spent a few minutes in the town and saw two trains there. Jan said that while I was busy, there was one westbound, probably the 6601. We caught the first train at 11:05, an eastbound at the old CNW depot, where refurbishing is underway. This was a manifest train and had UP 9477, RG 3080, CNW 6877 and CR 5049 on the point.
Our day, which had started out sunny, was rapidly turning cloudy. It was still quite warm, however, already up to 75 at 11:00. Tipped off by a detector, we went to the east end of town for the next train, a westbound stacker. A survey crew was working in the area, and a man carrying a transit raced the train to the Carroll St. crossing. This was another fairly short train, pulled by UP 9053 and 7550.
We started back east along the line, stopping to visit all of the small towns and elevators along the way. We encountered another westbound between Carroll and Glidden at 11:27. This appeared to be a local and we did see the power, UP 1716 and 1735, return to Boone later in the afternoon. They had 24 cars.
We stopped in Jefferson and explored a little bit before eating our lunch by the tracks. Jefferson has a restored (exterior only, so far) Milwaukee depot east of the business district. The depot serves as the north end of a trail on the old right of way. A carved stone tells a brief history of the line. Across the road, a building supply store has a mural picturing the depot.
After lunch, we caught a train in Jefferson at 1:15, a coal load of PRBX hoppers behind UP 8208 and 8287.
Our next stop was Grand Junction again. We caught an eastbound stacker there at 1:40, with UP 7546 and NS 8933. As we waited on the stacker, we heard the MEADM arrive from the north and wait wait for a chance to enter the eastbound main for a run to Boone. They came around the corner of the wye at 1:50 with UP 5947 and CSX 8217. We left town ahead of them as they pulled out onto Main 1.
We stopped at Beaver, MP 219, so that I could walk back into the Cargill elevator yard and get a picture of their switcher, NREX 40. At the first crossing east of Beaver, we met a westbound manifest with UP 9714 and 3069. At the same time, (2:10) the MEADM passed behind them on the north track.
We'd spotted a derailed hopper at the Jordan elevator on our way over in the morning, so before returning to the Boone yard we went east to the elevator to get a picture. We intercepted a westbound manifest near Jordan at 2:35. On the point were UP 5974 and 3361. The elevator's critter was in use today shoving hoppers under the chute for loading. At the west end of the elevator yard, a couple of hoppers were derailed, apparently having been shoved off the end of one of the tracks.
The coal train we'd seen in Jefferson with 8208 and 8287 came by us just west of Jordan at 2:45. A spur is under construction here, extending eastward from the crossovers east of Boone yard to the west end of the elevator yard.
Back in Boone, we parked north of the yard office across from the fairgrounds. A westbound CWEX empty, with UP 7039 and 8073 stopped to change crews at 3:25 and was rolling again at 3:40.
Over my shoulder I could hear flanges squealing and anglebars popping, and when I looked, I saw a unit moving slowly around the Fort Dodge transfer track. We drove over and caught the loco, UP 1676 just after they made it around the tight, guardrail-protected curve and started back east. We left them and went back to the yard.
At 4:00, another coal empty stopped for a crew change. This train had a collection of old hoppers with a number of different reporting marks. While they waited, the local we'd seen earlier, with UP 1735 and 1716, returned with hoppers from Ralston. Radio communication with trains near the yard seemed to be a little confused, as digits were transposed and entire loco numbers associated with the wrong trains. The crews were patient with the dispatcher and eventually things got sorted out, however. The coal empty, with UP 8264, UP 8169 and SP 168, pulled out around 4:10. Before they cleared town, a CWEX load came in behind UP 8307 and 8136.
We went back over to meet the transfer as it shoved a gondola around the sharp curve and back toward the UP mainlines. 1676 looked interesting on the old traction company rails that loop through a park-like setting.
We headed toward home, stopping at the west end of Ames yard where some switching was going on. I went north of the yard and around to the east end just in time to see the MEADM, now with six units and 21 cars, heading for the junction at Nevada. We went south to 30 and hurried back to the east over the tracks to Chicago Jct. We got there just in time to see the train, with UP 5947 and CSX 8217 (the power we'd seen in Grand Junction), plus UP 5995, SSW 9660, UP 5555 and UP 2020, head around the curve and under the highway toward Des Moines.
We took off southbound on S-14, figuring on seeing the train a few more times on the way to Des Moines. Although I kept up a pretty good pace on the highway, we got to Cambridge only just as the train arrived. Determined to catch them, we continued toward Des Moines at a, "high rate of speed", but managed to just pull within sight of the train's marker near Enterprise. The empty flat on the rear was flapping like a flag in a stiff breeze.